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Waimanalo - Charming Beach Town

Updated on November 8, 2014
Hawaiian Scribe profile image

Stephanie Launiu is a Native Hawaiian lifestyle and cultural writer. She has a degree in Hawaiian Pacific Studies. She lives in Hilo.

Waimanalo Beach
Waimanalo Beach | Source

Waimanalo hugs the eastern-facing shoreline of the island of O’ahu. It is a perfect example of how the quiet lifestyle of rural Hawaiian beach communities often become the magnet for real estate development and the transformation of oceanfront property. There was even a song written about it. “Waimanalo Blues” was written by Thor Wold and Liko Martin in the 1970’s as a protest song. It is now an iconic anthem for the movement to restore some sanity to unbridled development in the 50th state.

I grew up on the Big Island, so I didn’t see Waimanalo until I was an adult. But it is one of those special places where the Ko’olau mountains are so close to the shoreline that you feel as if you could reach out and touch both at the same time. The coastline encompassing Waimanalo Bay stretches lazily along six miles of Windward O’ahu from Wailea Point to Makapuu Point. Some of O’ahu’s best beaches and beach parks are along this pristine coast.

Waimanalo, in the Hawaiian language, means “fresh drinking water” - a valuable natural resource for human settlement. In the mid-19th century, Waimanalo Valley was known to be lush with ‘ulu (breadfruit), ohi’a ‘ai (mountain apple), kukui (candlenut tree), niu (coconut tree), ti plants, mai’a (banana), ‘awapuhi (fragrant ginger flowers), 'uala (sweet potato) and ko (sugar cane).

There were small streams and springs, including one named Waikupanaha, that flowed from the Koolaus into the valley. This life-giving “waimanalo” quenched the thirst of humans and fed the lo’i kalo (taro patches) that were carefully tended as a rich food source.

A typical residential street in Waimanalo
A typical residential street in Waimanalo | Source

Diversity and Land Use

Waimanalo is a diverse town of almost 5,500 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Along racial and ethnic lines, Waimanalo is reported to be 24% Asian, 23% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 12% Caucasian, 40% two or more races, and 1% Other.

Thankfully, residential development is limited along Waimanalo Bay’s shores. But because of the limited inventory, the prices are often sky-high and turnover doesn’t happen too often. There is a 3700 sf beachfront home on an 11,000 sf lot currently listed at almost $4 million. In the general area are several large estates, including the 9,000 sf Spanish-colonial home that served as a set for the TV show Magnum P.I. There are also several vacation rentals that are kept busy accommodating tourists who prefer laidback Waimanalo to a Waikiki hotel room. Portions of Baywatch Hawaii were filmed at Waimanalo Beach.

In comparison, Waimanalo is also the location for one of O’ahu’s largest Hawaiian Home Lands communities. Almost 2000 acres was set aside in accordance with the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act approved by the U.S. Congress in 1920 to provide 99-year leased houselots to eligible Native Hawaiians with at least a 50% blood quantum. Most of the older lots didn’t include a house, so the resident built a house but never owned the land and couldn’t sell it. Currently, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ practice is to build a subdivision on leased lots and Native Hawaiian applicants have to have sufficiently good credit and income to qualify for a mortgage. But they still never own the land and can’t sell it. A new subdivision opened last year. Many awarded a lease for a lot had been on the waiting list for decades. One woman interviewed on the occasion had waited more than 50 years to be a homeowner, and she now had to live with her son who could qualify for the mortgage.

Besides the higher-priced beachfront homes and the Native Hawaiian Home Lands houselots, there is also a wide range of private homes, agricultural and pasture lands. Waimanalo is known as horse and farm country, and there are ornamental plant nurseries and ranches in Waimanalo.

Another large landowner that has put Waimanalo’s name on the map is the U.S. government. In 1917, a Presidential Executive Order dedicated more than 1500 acres as the Waimanalo Military Reservation. In 1933 it was renamed Bellows Air Force Station after a WWI hero, 2nd Lt. Franklin Barney Bellows. Today it is a military recreational and training facility at the north end of Waimanalo Bay. Approximately 125 cottages are available as vacation rentals for up to 2 weeks to active and retired military, reservists, National Guardsmen, and current Dept. of Defense civilian employees. 46 acres of the Bellows portion of Waimanalo Beach is open to the general public on weekends and national holidays, and is a popular destination for locals looking to swim and surf.

Try their Coconut Shrimp!!
Try their Coconut Shrimp!! | Source

What To Do In and Around Waimanalo

Waimanalo is only a half hour drive from Honolulu. But what a beautiful drive! Take the H1 East until the freeway ends. Follow the highway past Hawaii Kai and you'll end up driving up an incline past Hanauma Bay and around the back of Diamond Head. Enjoy the scenery and follow the signs to Waimanalo.

Waimanalo Beaches

· Waimanalo Beach Park

· Bellows Beach Park

Other Attractions and Sightseeing

Sea Life Park (41-202 Kalanianaole Hwy)

Naturally Hawaiian Gallery (41-1025 Kalanianaole Hwy)

Waimanalo Polo Field - Sunday Polo Games - (41-1062 Kalanianaole Hwy)

Olomana Golf Course (41-1801 Kalanianaole Hwy)

Olomana Gardens Discovery Center (41-1140 Waikupanaha St.)

The Shrimp Shack is a bright yellow lunch wagon that is usually parked by the Naturally Hawaiian Gallery, but you can't miss it on the main strip of Kalanianaole Hwy. as you drive through Waimanalo. Their lunch plates are "da bomb". Their specialty is Garlic Shrimp but my favorite is their Coconut Shrimp. They've been featured on the Cooking Channel's Unique Eats, Food Network's Beach Eats, and on the Travel Channel.

Waimanalo Blues

Here is a version of the song "Waimanalo Blues" being sung by Country Comfort.

Here are the original words to "Waimanalo Blues":

Waimanalo Blues

by Thor Wold & Liko Martin

Wind's gonna blow so I'm gonna go

Down on the road again

Starting where the mountains Ieft me

I'm up where I began

Where I will go the wind only knows

Good times around the bend

Get in my car, goin' too far

Never comin' back again

Tired and worn I woke up this mornin'

Found that I was confused

Spun right around and found I had lost

The things that I couldn't lose


The beaches they sell to build their hotels

My fathers and I once knew

Birds all along sunlight at dawn

Singing Waimanalo blues

Down on the road with mountains so old

Far on the country side

Birds on the wing forget in a while

So I'm headed for the windward side

All of your dreams

Sometimes it just seems

That I'm just along for the ride

Some they will cry because they have pride

For someone who's loved here died

The beaches they sell to build their hotels

My fathers and I once knew

Birds all along sunlight at dawn

Singing Waimanalo blues.

© 2013 Stephanie Launiu


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    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      9 months ago from Hawai'i

      Thank you for your kind comment. Yes, we are a far distance from England, but I am glad that you enjoyed your visit to Hawaii and got to visit more than one island. Great vacation memories are the best! Aloha, Stephanie

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 

      9 months ago from Southwest England

      I've visited Hawaii twice now, as I have friends there. I was lucky enough to stay two minutes away from the beautiful Waimanalo beach on one visit, and it's still one of my favourites on Oahu. I loved the Big Island too, visiting the Volcano National Park was amazing.

      Thanks for a bit more information on the area, I couldn't possible see it all while I was there, and this so makes me want to come back. Unfortunately it is a long, long way from England....

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      LOL. Right on! Thanks for that Stephanie. So good to know.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      6 years ago from Hawai'i

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: I saw Cyril on an interisland flight from the Big Island a few months ago. He plays every Wednesday night at the Kani Ka Pila Grille in Waikiki. I'm not sure where Bla lives now, but he's still making music and turning out recordings. Aloha!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Mahalo, Stephanie. Eventually I will get back home to the Big Island. Hoping by next year. Probably won't go to Oahu though. Most of my family who lived there are dead now and I don't care much for Honolulu. LOL. I would go to the Gabby Pahanui Music Festival if my family on the Big Island were going. I wonder if the boys are still in Kona or if they are on Oahu. I would like to see them again. I haven't seen Cyril or Bla in over 20 years! Mahalo again for a fabulous Hub and the memories.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      6 years ago from Hawai'i

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: there is an annual Gabby Pahinui music festival each August.

      When you come to visit again, be sure to come in August. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      When I was a young girl we use to go to Waimanolo to visit Uncle Gabby Pahanui. Good times in those days jamming to Hawaiian music, eating, drinking and swimming at the beautiful beach there. Such good memories and yes, it makes me so homesick.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      6 years ago from Hawai'i

      Thanks so much @susi10! I do hope you get to visit Waimanalo and the rest of Hawaiʻi someday. Aloha, Stephanie

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 

      6 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      This was a beautiful hub with such lovely pictures of Wimanalo beach. It looks like a beautiful place and tranquil to, I would love to visit it some day. I am looking forward to reading more of your hubs on Hawaii, so I can learn more about it.

      Well done, voted up +++ and voted interesting.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      7 years ago from Hawai'i

      Waimanalo is one of those little country towns that everyone should visit. I'm glad you listened to the song, which really was part of the awakening of Native Hawaiians back in the '70's. Since then, the Hawaiian culture and language have been on the rebound even amid growing tourism. Hope you get to visit Waimanalo some day. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 

      7 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      Now.... this is a place I would like to spend some time :-)

      Thanks for sharing... love the song too.

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      8 years ago from Hawai'i

      @twoseven: I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and have been to Waimanalo. I hope you carry the pleasant memories with you wherever you go. Aloha, Stephanie

    • twoseven profile image


      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      This is one of my favorite beaches in the world! This makes me want to be there right now! I have played in a frisbee tournament at the polo fields and it is such a blast. Great hub!

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      8 years ago from Hawai'i

      @hawaiianodysseus: Yeah, it made me homesick too, and I live here! Writing about Waimanalo made me want to get into the car & take a day trip to swim and eat that coconut shrimp! Thanks for reading and hope your 2013 is going well. Aloha, Stephanie

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      8 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Without a doubt, this is one of your finest hubs! I am sharing it with my followers. Even though I'm from The Garden Island, I got homesick reading this one. Great choice of video, too! Thanks, Stephanie, for making my day.

      Aloha and blessings from the Pacific Northwest!


    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      8 years ago from Hawai'i

      @Imogen French: I'm so glad you had a chance to visit Waimanalo. I'm always amazed by visitors who have come here to Hawaii and love it, but leave without knowing any of the history of the area. What a shame! We must do better to share our history with matter where we live in the world. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Hawaiian Scribe profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Launiu 

      8 years ago from Hawai'i

      @stephhicks68: "To the other Stephanie" - I've read your travel hubs, and they're beautiful as well. If you ever get a chance to return to Hawaii, let me know before you come and I'll answer any questions you have about places to visit. Thanks for the kind comments. Aloha, Stephanie

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 

      8 years ago from Southwest England

      Ah, this takes me back to my Hawaiian holiday. I stayed in Waimanalo for a few days, and the beach there was gorgeous as well as virtually deserted. Wish I was there again ... thanks for the reminder, as well as an informative hub, it's interesting to learn a little of the history of the area.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Beautiful, simply beautiful, Stephanie! I wish I had read this hub when we were in Oahu last month. Interesting information about the Hawaiian Home Lands. I had heard about the program, but you explain it very well.

      Rated up and sharing! Aloha, Stephanie


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